The eastern glow slowly stalks the sloping horizon, tenderly illuminating the landscape’s dew-draped veil and signaling the start of a crisp new day, one that’s ripe for turkey hunting in Texas.
The disheveled coyote on the bunchgrass ridge to the left is the first to chime in, its howling yodels echoing through the dissolving layer of wispy fog and bringing a resolute retort from two more of its concealed mates. The chirping frogs in the babbling creek nearby certainly don’t converse in coyote, but they offer croaking chants and habitual responses soon after the barks grow silent and the prairie wolves loaf away.
In the distance, a sun-bleached cottonwood tree long ago split by lightning comes back to life for a few fleeting moments as roosting turkeys leisurely rise from their slumber and fly down with fluttering clucks and cackles. The birds hover between the cottonwood and a cluster of oaks for at least half an hour, and by the time the turkeys fan out in a bristling procession, the sun fully peeks above the horizon.
The iridescent hues of four strutting gobblers gleam brilliantly amid the hearty green surroundings as the birds float in and amongst subordinate males and a dozen hens, drumming, twisting and turning passionately in hopes of showing each other who is boss. The first ticklings of the striker gently drawn across the slate calls elicit a few lukewarm responses from three red-headed toms and one whose noggin was beat white, but after a few more staccato cuts and drawn-out yelps, the entire group begins to slither closer.
Within minutes, the gaggle of hens and jakes is within 50 yards, while the boisterous toms stay at the back of the pack, sizing each other up and paying close attention to the “other” turkeys making more noise. Then, for whatever reason, the entire convoy simply reverses course and heads back the way it came, the hens again leading the parade with four drawn-up fans remaining at the rear.
It’s maddening when your best attempts go for naught, but when you’re hunting turkeys that’s something you quickly get used to, and honestly, that morning a few seasons back was nothing short of spectacular.
Turkey hunting in Texas is steeped in tradition
Springtime in the Lone Star State highlights a marvelous medley of life and there’s no better way to enjoy the breathtaking sights, sounds and smells than spending a day camouflaged amid surroundings brimming with eye-catching incentives. If you sit still long enough, look and listen, there’s no telling what riches you undoubtedly will tote back home, even if they don’t include a long-bearded gobbler.
Perhaps it was the time you dozed off during an afternoon sit propped up against a broad cottonwood while gazing across an eastern Panhandle panorama turned emerald green by quenching spring rains. The setting was overflowing with commotion as tweeting songbirds and clicking grasshoppers slowly serenaded you to a siesta only to be roused back to consciousness by a trio of inquisitive whitetail does that rustled ripe foliage nearby as they slinked past.
Maybe it was the arid afternoon you spent hunkered down amid the craggy maze of Hill Country cedars and weathered limestone, the pungent odor of the dense vegetation overpowering the senses until a gentle breeze lifted your spirits. As the day tiptoed on, anticipation ran wild, especially since there was no telling what type of critter might materialize right around the corner — perhaps a prying fox or even an exotic entrant such as an Axis or Sika deer.
While waiting unquestionably has its benefits in the pursuit of spring turkeys, it also pays off to stay mobile and sometimes seek birds out, which again lends itself to finding Easter eggs of all shapes and sizes. You never can go wrong in the search for vegetation variety whether it’s untold numbers of vibrant wildflowers, including ones you recognize — bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and fire wheels — or the dozens more with unknown identities that nonetheless are stunning. Then there is the myriad of underbrush, shinery and cacti that may not be as easy on the eyes but still houses critters of all shapes and statures which often will peek out and make at least a half-hearted appearance.
Sometimes turkey treks take you to places you never could have imagined or led you to discoveries that forged an even deeper bond with your spring surroundings if even just for a modest moment. Like the time you sloshed knee-deep through a spring-fed creek with some of your best hunting companions to get to prime real estate on a gleaming day in the eastern Panhandle, providing a welcome rush of bubbling water on tired feet. Or the healthy clutch of freckled turkey eggs cocooned in an earthen dugout that seemed ready to burst open at any moment, hopefully when the doting hen that laid them soon returned from a food expedition.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure in turkey hunting is spending time afield with those who also truly enjoy what spring symphonies and sights emerge when you least expect them.
Turkey season begins March 18 in South Texas and April 1 in northern counties. It’s never too early to start prepping for the opportunity to make more memories.